Friday, December 10, 2010

Handspun Yarns

Clinton Square.  Nicholas Lisi / The Post-Standard
Hi everyone,
Because it's been a while since my last blog posting, I thought I would write a bit about how the end of the season went for us on the farm. This was a terrific first season for us and we are incredibly grateful for all of you who come out the markets each week. I recently drove by the downtown market location, and while it looks different covered in snow and ice skaters rather than fresh produce, I got a feeling of excitement anticipating next season and seeing you all again! We participated in a couple community events during the season. One at the Westcott Community Center Bulb Giveaway , and it was a huge success with over 4,000 flower bulbs given to the community.We then headed down to Watson Greenhouse where the CNY Men Who Cook gave a Fall cooking demonstration.We had a great time at both of these events and loved meeting everyone that participated.

Winter is upon us now and with 58 inches of snow accumulating in this past week, there is no longer any outdoor work to be done-other than shoveling. Now is the time when I slow down and enjoy the morning coffee. However, I am still busy spinning and dying wool for our handspun yarns. They are on sale at our Local Harvest store or through local craft fairs.
On Sunday, December 19th we will be in Utica, NY participating in the Holiday Indie Garage Sale from 11am-4pm.    Stay tuned for other events throughout the winter and updates on next year's crop planning. Seed Starting is just around the corner! Now, if only I could get out to the greenhouse through all that snow!

Have a great holiday season.
Sincerely, Farmer Angela and Matt.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Green tomatoes and rainy markets

We really appreciate everyone coming out for the past two Tuesday Downtown Markets. The past two weeks have not only been cold, but accompanied with heavy rains. Once wet and chilled, there is no getting warm during the market. This past week I wished I had remembered my long underwear, but I will never forget them from now on.
The only thing keeping a smile on my face was seeing everyone brave the rains to get their weekly produce-thank you thank you thank you. You make it all worth it.
This Tuesday will be our last Downtown Market for the year. I am so sad the season is over, especially since we still have beautiful greens and root crops taking in the sun on this beautiful afternoon. However, we will be at the Cazenovia Farmers Market until November, so you can still come visit us and pick up your food.
This week we will be bringing green tomatoes for my favorite fall snack: Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches. Serve it with a little Dijon mustard and crisp bacon.

We will be missing this Saturday Cazenovia Market (10/9). Our dear friends are getting married and we will be there to celebrate with them. It's a happy day!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Winter Squash comes early to Central NY

As with many crops this season, winter squash made an early appearance on harvest schedules of most central NY farms. Local orchards were bringing a bounty of apples to market 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule and the pumpkins and winter squash have been ready for harvest since August. Harvesting squash on a hot August day is not what most people have in mind as a fun day on the farm, so many have waited until September. Waiting too long once the vines have dies back, though, puts the squash at risk of sun damage that can compromise the storage life of the squash.
This year we grew 3 varieties of squash: Delicata, Acorn, and baby Pie Pumpkin. Come out to one of our markets and take home some squash to roast for a hearty, fall evening's dinner.

Delicata Squash with it's tender skin and a sweet, nutty flesh is great 
baked and eaten (skin and all) with a little butter.

Acorn squash with it's characteristic orange mark on the underside of the squash. 
The small size make them great for stuffing.

Sugar Pie pumpkins are a hit with kids for carving and decorating. But they are also excellent for making creamy soup, served right into the hollowed out pumpkin for a festive dinner.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup Recipe (

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 6 cups of chopped roasted pumpkin
  • 5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.
2 Add pumpkin and 5 cups of broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
3 Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to saucepan.
4 With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring to incorporate. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To make pumpkin purée, cut a sugar pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, lie face down on a tin-foil lined baking pan. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 min to an hour. Cool, scoop out the flesh.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Salad for dinner

After a few weeks of not having salad greens, they are back! It was so sad to see many of you coming to the market stand with hope in your eyes, asking: "salad"? While nothing compares to fresh field greens, many of you have tried a nice alternative using swiss chard or the beets and beet greens. For those that didn't get it, here is a link to the beet and peach salad recipe I had at market last week: Beat, Peach, and Goat Cheese Salad

While I am happy to be able to offer the salad greens again, it makes me think about all the disappointing weeks without it as well as other crops that I had expected to offer but failed to due to pest/disease pressure, uncharacteristic weather, failed germination, or farmer error. I do not like disappointing any of my market customers, but this is why I have decided to do the farmers market rather than rush into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I need to work out the kinks in the plan, and most importantly learn how to arrange for a Plan B, when the unexpected, inevitably, happens.

I feel confident in my summer offerings, and as they wane I am excited for market customers to taste the bounty of the Fall harvest. Hopefully I will have something you have never tried before to keep your Fall cooking just as exciting as your Summer was.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Turning water green

Working with tomatoes, either pruning, trellising, or harvesting, will turn hands a dark black color from the plants. And once washed, the soap and water turn a bright green color. That's what happened to me after a great, long tomato harvest this afternoon. I'm not sure how many (thousands!!) of pounds I picked today. But, I love washing all the dense, green powder off my hands and arms knowing there will be loads of delicious heirloom tomatoes at market tomorrow. 


The above picture is of the Prudens Purple tomato. Accompanying them at market will be Striped German (an orange and yellow tomato that has the most superior taste) and sweet, sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes.

All the picking and green powder is worth it when we finally sit down to a comforting dinner of our own tomato soup.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Market

We had a change in plans for our summer farmers markets. We are no longer attending the Westcott Community Market, and are sad to say goodbye to that community. We decided we needed a weekend market to allow more time between harvests, and have joined the Cazenovia Farmers Market on Saturdays. It's held right in the town center on Albany Street from 9am-4pm. The above is a picture of our first week there. We have had two markets now and are getting to know some very nice people and hardworking farmers. There is no bigger compliment than to have people come back to purchase produce week after week.

We are greatly enjoying the downtown Syracuse farmers market and feel like our little farm has found a permanent home there. We have many customers that have become more like friends; smiling when they come to the stand, telling us about the delicious foods they made that week and even sharing the recipes with us. While a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is in our near future, we will hope to keep this market.

Stop by and see us there. The heirloom tomatoes are starting!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Changing Landscapes

It is amazing how the farm is changing so quickly now: new crops ripening and ready for harvest while older plantings are finishing up and being pulled out to make room for new plantings.With all the changes, it's impossible to just sit back and marvel in the beauty of what is growing. I am always looking on to the next thing. It's Summer but my mind is on cooler weather while I plan for Fall harvest and winter cover crops.

But, I am drawn back into the present by the pace of life on the farm right now.We are well into our summer harvesting: lemon and pickling cucumbers, patty pan summer squash, zinnias and sunflowers! And our heirloom tomato plants have beautiful green fruit on them.

Heat loving spinach for, hopefully, an August harvest

Tomotillos filling out their husks. I'll have plenty of recipes available to use up these deliciously, sweet green tomatoes. 

Acorn Winter Squash

Teddy Bear Sunflowers

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Last week in pictures

Thanks to my family that spent one of their vacation days to help out on the farm. We got so much done!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Buckwheat: some for me and some for the bees

When I tilled up the plot of land I'm using there was one section that was still pretty wet, so having been worked while wet, turned into hard clods. By hand, I was unable to break the clods with any efficiency, so decided to just run the seeder full of buckwheat seed over the section. I had no idea if the seed would germinate as it fell down through the clods of hard soil.
Well, it did germinate and less than 1 month later I have this:

Buckwheat is used as a quick summer cover crop, usually planted early in the summer and tilled in before a late summer crop planting. It provides excellent organic matter since it grows very tall very quickly. I plan to just allow this planting to re-seed itself (maybe 3 times?) and hopefully improve soil structures for next Spring. Possibly, even Fall planted garlic. In the meantime, it is also attracting bees and other pollinators as well as providing shelter for a new family of killdeer birds.

The bees LOVE buckwheat, but beware it drives them a little crazy. While working on the farm in Maryland I was able to take a bee keeping course and attend to the hives on the farm. I learned that while Buckwheat is in bloom, your bees will be more irritable. I do not know why this is, but it may have something to do with frustration that this delicious flower only provides them nectar in the morning. I love watching bees and feel a necessary, but beneficial calm come over me when I am in a hive. The order and intelligence with which they work to provide for their society is awesome. And so important that we spread the word about bee health. A major issue in the news the past few years has been this idea of "colony collapse disorder". I believe the accuracy of this term is disputable, but there is certainly a decline in bee populations.

One cause of this may that the bees are stressed, and for a number of reasons:
            * Most of the "raised" bees are overworked. They are shipped from one mono-crop farm to another on massive trucks expected to pollinate whatever is in season at the time. So it could be a month of strawberries, to a month of apples, to a month of blueberries. They are not allowed the diversity they (and we) expect for nutrition.
            * In some regions of the US "wild" hives of bees are surrounded by "mega" farms, providing them with limited options at the same time as overwhelming them with pesticides. Some beekeepers will even say it is the development of the genetically modified seed with pesticide and herbicide right in it that is poisoning the bees.They say this new strain of seed is producing plants with systemic insecticides, and this concentration is putting too much stress on the bees.

So, lets start gardens EVERYWHERE and raise bees in them. Lets raise bees in urban gardens and on city rooftops! Most states have regional bee keeping associations that give classes and assistance with getting started.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

First week of markets

We have gotten through our first week of markets, and we had a blast! It felt so good to see family and friends come out and give support. We have appreciated the compliments, constructive criticisms, and encouragement to get us through the rest of the season. Thank you all!

Now is the time to start gearing up for this week's markets and revisit the crop plan to make sure all succession plantings are accurate. I am really looking forward to the onset of root crops, squash, and tomatoes, but we will be predominantly harvesting greens, radishes, and turnips for market this week.

Here's hoping for our first sunny market day!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Getting ready for Market #1

This Wednesday will be the first market for our growing farm. We have been busy getting all harvest and market materials ready, weeding beds for easy harvest, all while still putting transplants and seeds in the ground. The inch and a half of rain last week has done wonders for the growing plants, as well as sparing us the task of watering.
For the first market we will have: a Mesclun Mix that includes 4 varieties of lettuce and 3 varieties of greens, Tender Arugula, Salad Turnips, Spicy Radishes, Cilantro, Swiss Chard, and a Brazing mix that includes red russian kale, spicy mustard, and a variety of asian greens. We will also have our handspun yarns for sale at the market.

We hope to see you all this Wednesday at the Westcott Community Center (Corner of Euclid Ave and Westcott St) 2-7pm. Stop by and say hi, we would love to see you!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do slugs drink beer?

Remember when we planted no till potatoes and I talked about the inevitability of slugs since we used so much straw? Well, the good news is that those potatoes are starting to poke through the straw (!!), but the bad news is that there are many slugs just waiting to munch on those unsuspecting tubers.

 This is a picture of a very happy slug...taken by a very unhappy gardener. 

I have already found slug damage on the swiss chard, which made me think it was time for a beer. Not for me...for the slugs. Placing wide mouth, shallow bowls with beer around the garden can keep slugs away. They are attracted by the beer and slime their way into the bowl, where they drown. I will check first thing in the morning to see how many slugs were trapped over night. I will have to keep the beer fresh, at least while the plants are small and susceptible. Check back for updates on the slug eradication efforts!

**Disclaimer: No craft micro-brew was injured on this mission.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Carrots love Tomatoes

Especially "Angela's 'Nelson' Carrots".

(Photo courtesy of Johnny's Select Seeds)

I am planting 4 varieties of carrots this year: Mokum and Nelson are classic orange carrots. And, Purple Haze and Deep Purple are dark purple carrots. I am especially excited for the purple carrots, although I love talking about "My Nelson Carrots". I have already sown 2 succession plantings and am not happy with the spotty germination. I even had row cover over them to aid in germination and lightly watered on most days. Someday I will try the burlap method of germinating carrots. Right after seeding, you lay burlap over the bed. The burlap allows light and water through, at the same time as keeping soil moist and soft for those tiny seeds. Once the carrots germinate, pull back the burlap, taking larger weeds with it, leaving behind beautiful rows of carrots. This cuts down on the weeding too!
I decided, today, to plant more carrots in the tomato beds. I sowed 2 rows on either side of the tomatoes. This may result in way more carrots than I can harvest, wash, sell or eat.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Red Skies at Night, Sailors Delight; Red Skies at Morning, Sailors Take Warning

Or so goes the way I learned it.

The last two mornings I woke up at dawn to see a very pretty pink sky and I knew we were in for some crazy Central NY weather. I was not disappointed. Yesterday winds and a hard, quick rain. Today hail. I am not complaining about this weather, as I love when I don't have to water thirsty seeds. Yesterday, I was able to get radish, beet, turnip, carrot, greens, and sunflower seeds into the ground before being caught in the rain. Already wet, I decided to throw down some clover seed into some beds that I won't plant for a while. Not a typical cover crop, at least alone, but I plan to use it as a "living mulch" under late planted brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc) and late planted tomatoes. The clover quickly shades out other weeds and grows low to the ground providing moisture retention. It may need mowing before I transplant the brassicas, but it recovers quickly and clover has been shown to reduce populations of the cabbage looper, aphids, and flea beetle. One drawback is the increase in slugs. But I have some old beer for them (more on that another time).

Things are moving quickly now and we are about 1 month away from the first market!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No till potatoes

This past weekend we planted potatoes, all 40lbs of Banana Fingerling, Adirondack Red, Red Gold and All Blue. Thanks to my parents who came to help out to make easy work of these no-till potatoes. Conventionally, potatoes are planted into a furrow 3-4" deep in freshly cultivated soil. As the plants germinate and grow, the soil is hilled around the base of the plant. Hilling allows the growing tubers to remain in moist, dark conditions that increase yield and prevent"greening". Preparing soil for potatoes not only is time consuming but also disturbs soil structures and exposes weed seeds in the lower layers of the soil to the light they need for germination. In northern climates, especially, Spring is characteristically wet and cold, which can prevent timely preparation of these potato beds. There is also little time for Spring growth of cover crops needed for soil fertility and weed suppression.
One way to work with the land, and not against it, is to plant no-till potatoes. I planted a dense cover crop of rye, vetch and crimson clover in the late summer with enough time for it to establish. However, the real growth didn't come on until the early Spring . To prepare for planting, I mowed down the cover crop which resulted in a nice surface mulch to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. The potatoes pieces were then laid out on the surface and covered with about 6"-12" of straw. That's it! As the potato plants grow, I will mulch with straw 2-3 more times until there is a dense cover of straw protecting the future potato crop.

After harvest, I should have a weed free bed ready to plant a late cover crop or even the fall garlic. There will still be decomposing straw cover, which would benefit the garlic planting very well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Farmers love this stuff.
Everyone should love this stuff. Mix it with your house plants, load it into your garden, spread it on your lawns...better yet turn that lawn into a garden and add compost.

I got a load of compost delivered today from Toad Hollow Farm, which is right down the road from my farm site. It is dark, rich, and moist...and has a great smell to it. Compost not only adds organic matter and nutrients to a soil, but it can break up clay soils and improve water holding properties to sandy soil by improving a soil's tilth. It also feeds the microorganisms that live in our soil and without them the soil would be dead.

I will be mixing the compost into the beds this week one wheel barrel at a time. I would have preferred to spread it before tilling, but I needed to till when the ground was dry enough after a rain but not hardened from too dry weather. I had a pretty small window when I thought the conditions would be right, and I did not have time to get the compost.

I hope to be able to generate enough compost on my farm one day, that I will not have to rely on off site fertility. It is important to close the circle of nutrient transfer. While I know there are some things that the soil and farm will need that it cannot produce, composted manure or composted garden/food waste is one way of returning nutrients to the very soil they came from.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Till and no-till

With the unseasonably hot (and windy) weather we have been experiencing, I was able to till a few of the garden beds by hand this week. I planted some late summer/fall cover crops on these beds and want to turn this growth into the soil for added organic matter. Hand tilling usually starts with this "beast" the broadfork:

The curved tines allow an easy rocking motion to aerate and loosen compacted soil. It's great for spaces that will be grown intensively, as it does not disturb the soil layers and structures, and allows earthworms and microbes to do their job in the soil. Although heavy, the tiling motion is effortless.

Hand tilling can be fun, and quite a workout, but I am always interested in learning ways to "no-till" my garden beds. You can find a number of experiments for no-till but one of the most interesting approaches is using the daikon radish or more appropriately dubbed the "tillage" radish . I first experimented with these radishes on a project with Charlie White, a student of Dr. Ray Weil, at the University of Maryland. Dr. Weil has been working with a team of researchers and farmers to study the benefits of the tillage radish since 2001. The objective of their project was to study weed suppression during and after tillage radish cover crops were grown. However, the results of their study proved more beneficial.

Here's how it works: tillage radishes, planted in the fall as a cover crop, have been shown to benefit soil fertility, reduce soil compaction, and limit weed growth. The radishes grow a very long taproot, up to 2" diameter and 18" long! This long root drills holes in the soil and opens up spaces for plant roots, oxygen, and earthworms to move freely. The radish, then fully mature by winter, dies off from the frost leaving its leafy green matter as a residue on the soil surface. This mulch not only add nutrients to the soil, but also protects the soil surface from erosion during the winter and suppresses early Spring weeds. Studies show the radish cover crop can capture 150-200lbs of nitrogen per acre, and make it available in Spring for the first planting of early crops.

Another benefit I have found of the radish cover crop is the soft soil it leaves behind in the Spring. Raking back the decomposed leaf matter, I found soil that was loose, aerated, and ready to be seeded or transplanted right into. No need to till by hand or large, soil compacting tractors. I love the idea of preparing the fine seedbeds with plants instead of steel. Plus, a few "stolen" radishes make a delicious fall snack!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seed starting explained

I thought I would post some pictures of my seed starting set up. I am using the laundry room in my parents house for a crowded and uncomfortable seed starting space.  I fill the seed trays with growing mix, press thousands of seeds into the soil, and balance them precariously on a washing machine until I get them into their warm home. I have converted a spare bedroom into a growing room for the plants to get them started during the cold, gray Syracuse Spring. Here are some fluorescent lights hanging from shelves, about 1-2 inches above the little seedlings.

 With plastic covering the south facing window, the room stays between 70-90 degrees. A cozy little spot for the newest additions to Daily Harvest Farm. Although this is working, I cringe when I see these little seedlings stretch for the light given off by the fluorescent when all they really want is sunlight. They would be much bigger and a lot more healthier if grown from sunlight. I also think these plants grown under unnatural light and protected from the wind do not become mature plants that are as strong or abundant than they would be if grown outside. However, this is Central New York, so we will keep starting our seeds until the sun shines bright and warm.

As soon as the weather turn a bit warmer, to stay above freezing at night, we will transfer the seedlings into our small propagation greenhouse. We built this greenhouse from PVC pipe and covered it with 4mil greenhouse film for maximum light penetration. On a sunny day, temperatures can jump up to 100 degrees very quickly inside, but without supplemental heating it can reach freezing overnight. For the health and vigor of the pants, I will be relieved once they can be in the greenhouse full time. But I will act like a hovering parent (keeping my eye on the temperature, opening the vents when the sun is out, closing the vents if it hides behind a cloud) to assure everything is perfect. It's a delicate dance during the Spring, and such a nice, quiet warm up to summer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Seedlings

I have been working in my grow room to start some seeds for transplanting. With the warm weather and sunny skies I am tempted to want to get a start on everything, but I must be patient and follow my plan. I want to have things maturing right around the first farmers market of the season, and I also know we are still due for more winter. So far, the leeks and swiss chard have germinated and are growing close to the lights so they don't get too tall and leggy. Today I started flats of the early peppers and fennel. Soon to be growing are also early tomatoes, tomotillos, and husk fruits. Tomatoes do not like frost, but they also do not like being confined in little seed starting trays. They often "graduate" into bigger pots 3 times before finally being transplanted into the ground. This would also be the time to start brassica (kale, collards, broccoli) seeds for early Spring planting. However, I am not planting an early round of these crops, but will have them for the fall harvest, due to limited space and time. I really want to build soil fertility, so have decided to grow a quick, summer cover crop on part of my fields. This buckwheat cover crop will get turned under to provide organic matter and nutrients for the late planting of kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Introducing Daily Harvest Farm

I am so happy to finally introduce Daily Harvest Farm for the 2010 market season. After apprenticeships on organic farms from Massachusetts to Maryland, I am thrilled to begin a farm of my own. And this past year taught me just how much of a challenge it would be. Late in the summer of 2009, I began by renting land in Marcellus, NY and immediately started building soil fertility by adding compost and planting cover crops to protect the soil from the upcoming Winter. The snowy months have allowed me time to pull together my projections for crop rotation, planting and crop yields into spreadsheets. Throughout the planning process, my mantra remains - "I love Excel". This season will be a very important year for developing data and benchmarks for yield, harvest/planting timing, and marketing practices that will assist me in future years. In the meantime, however, I have had to rely on my farming experience reading and research, and advice from a few great farmers.
With the planning almost complete in early Winter, I got a feeling of ambition and decided to rent additional land on a nearby farm. Luckily, winters in Upstate NY are very long. I returned to my excel files and updated my plan for the added space. I was able to include flowers and herbs into my new rotation, which felt like a fabulous reward. So, with everything mapped out, I hit the seed catalogs. What a relief that I had a plan before even opening the front cover, as the temptation to grow everything is so great. There is an abundance of new varieties of seed, heirloom vegetables, and delicious fruits to choose from. I could have easily been careless and purchased varieties not suitable to this growing region and soil structures. I am happy to learn that lesson without actually making the blunder. The seeds have been arriving in the mail slowly, as the orders are filled, and I am getting ready to start the first of the seeds in my grow room-thanks mom and dad for the use of a spare bedroom! I will be starting seeds beginning March 1 and will continue as needed throughout the season. As seedlings get stronger and temperatures get warmer and skies sunnier, they will be transferred to a small greenhouse to await planting day.
There is still a lot of Winter left in this area before we can get this small farm growing, but the days are getting longer and the sun, when out, is warmer. I can already picture the bustling farmer's markets and I greatly look forward to being a part of that picture. It is really a joy to fill my days with work that I love; it is challenging work with many opportunities. Thanks for visiting us and please stay tuned for market information, stories, and challenges we face as new farmers.